Indian beauty with French looks

July 8, 2008 Tuesday
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July 8, 2008
Indian beauty with French looks
Editor Roopinder Singh lived in New York for six years but was drawn back to his hometown of Chandigarh
By Deepika Shetty

CITY ICONS: French architect Le Corbusier used mainly concrete, steel and glass in his creations as seen in the linear and cuboid High Court (above) in Chandigarh. The building’s parasol-like double roof shades it from the heat. Another of his works is the Assembly, characterised by the eye-catching roofline. — PHOTOS: ROOPINDER SINGH

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CHANDIGARH, also known as the City Beautiful, is India’s only planned city.Just five hours by car from the capital New Delhi, it was designed by renowned French architect Le Corbusier.

Writer, award-winning photographer and assistant editor of The Tribune newspaper in Chandigarh, Mr Roopinder Singh, 48, lived in New York for several years but was drawn back to the city he grew up in.

‘The greenery, the architecture, the people and the slightly laid-back pace of life were what appealed to me and encouraged me to pack my bags after six years in New York,’ he says.

But to make the most of your visit to this city, he suggests dropping any preconceived notions about India. ‘Chandigarh is a planned city with an Indian touch, it offers a very different experience,’ he says.

Here are his tips to seeing the city:

Architectural wonders

The city is known internationally for its architecture and urban planning, and is home to numerous projects done not just by Corbusier but also his cousin Pierre Jeanneret.

Corbusier designed and built the city’s High Court, Assembly, Secretariat, the Lake Club, School of Art and the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh.

Jeanneret, who had often stayed in the shadow of his famous cousin, lived in Chandigarh for 15 years and designed the famous Panjab University campus as well as the Gandhi Bhawan, which combined architectural aesthetics with symbols and structures of Eastern philosophy.

Don’t miss the museum & art gallery

If you don’t have time to see everything, make sure you at least stop at the city’s museum and art gallery in Sector 10.

‘Apart from the architecture, you will also see the works of great Indian painters like M.F. Husain, Jatin Das and Rabindranath Tagore. The museum has a significant collection of miniature Indian paintings as well,’ says Mr Singh.

Some artefacts – such as seals, utensils and coins – date back to the Indus Valley civilisation.

Head for the rock garden

Built entirely from industrial waste, the Rock Garden shows how one can create beauty with discarded items. The creations also make a poignant statement on the need for a healthy and sustainable environment.

‘It is one place that will blow your mind. I view it as a revolt of creativity against what the creator, Nek Chand, considered Corbusier’s architectural regimentation,’ says Mr Singh.

Walk along Sukhna lake

‘This artificial lake at the foothills of the Shivalik hills is the perfect place for a morning walk,’ he says.

A protected national wetland, the lake is a sanctuary for migratory birds like the Siberian duck, storks and cranes during winter. During summer, the popular Mango Festival is held along the lake.

Visit the parks and gardens

Chandigarh is home to the popular Botanical Gardens, Rose Garden, Terraced Garden and Bougainvilla Park. Set aside a day to explore these and see some beautiful flowers in bloom, suggests Mr Singh (below).

For book lovers

If you are into books, make a stop at Book Browser in Sector 8 and Capital Book Depot in Sector 17. Both have an excellent collection of Indian writing in English as well as books by international authors. You can get paperbacks for 200 rupiah (S$7).
Food galore‘You’ll be spoilt for choice,’ says Mr Singh.

For an authentic Punjabi meal, visit Moti Mahal in Sector 26. Mr Singh recommends the butter chicken with naan and a salted lassi (a yogurt drink).

He adds: ‘You mustn’t leave without trying our version of Chinese food.’ To do that, he suggests a visit to the Yangtze Restaurant at Hotel Shivalik View in Sector 17.

‘Their crispy noodles, vegetables and chilli chicken are superb. The place also offers fantastic views of the city,’ he says.

For drinks, live music and a perfect place to unwind, he suggests the Lava Bar at The Taj in Sector 17.

Shopping mania

If you are looking for Indian designer wear, make a stop at leading designer Ritu Kumar’s boutique in Sector 9 and Satya Paul’s store at The Taj.

Another great place to shop is Fabindia in Sector 9, which has a great range of clothes for men, women, teenagers and children. You can pick up gifts like table linen and organic products here.

For a one-stop shopping experience, head for the Sector 17 market which has shops offering everything from clothes, shoes, bags, watches to handicrafts.